News & Events

Second Entrepreneurial Institute Brings More Students to Western Iowa

The second annual Okoboji Entrepreneurial Institute begins Aug. 5, with students from five Iowa colleges and universities learning about entrepreneurship and economic development opportunities in northwest Iowa.

This year, students from Buena Vista University in Storm Lake and Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville will join students from the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa.

For five days, 32 students will meet in classes in the Lakeside Laboratory on the shore of West Lake Okoboji to discuss how to build a business and participate in a simulation business-building game. During their stay, the students live with Okoboji-area residents in their homes.

Like the first Okoboji Institute last year, the event is designed to show students that the entire state of Iowa is fertile territory for economic development.

"This gets students off their campuses and lets them see all the opportunities available throughout the state," said David Hensley, executive director and clinical professor of the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center at the University of Iowa and coordinator of the Okoboji Institute. "Last year, we built some fantastic relationships between the universities, students and community partners to lay the groundwork for future entrepreneurial possibilities in the region. This year's institute is building on those partnerships so we can become even more connected to the community."

Hensely said the participants are a diverse group of students who come from a variety of backgrounds and majors across each school. They will participate in advanced study of entrepreneurship that will include an entrepreneurial simulation, seminars with faculty from the participating colleges and universities, guest presentations by successful entrepreneurs and business and community leaders, and networking and mentoring to enhance their understanding of entrepreneurship opportunities in Iowa.

Among the business leaders scheduled to participate are Berkley Bedell, Tom Bedell, Marvin Pomerantz, John Pappajohn, Bill Krause, Bruce Tamisiea, and Toby Shine. The keynote speaker will be Gary Kiedaisch, president and CEO of the Coleman Co.

The students will also break into teams and spend their mornings on a computer-based simulation that incorporates the creation and operation of a new business and a fundraising round where the teams have to present their plans to community volunteer venture capitalists to acquire funds to fuel growth for their simulated companies. Evenings will provide opportunities for networking.

The concept of the Okoboji Entrepreneurial Institute was developed by Tom Bedell, Spirit Lake resident and CEO of Pure Fishing. A former member of the Board of Regents, Bedell developed the Okoboji Entrepreneurial Institute concept as a way to better connect the three Regents universities with the northwest part of the state.

The Institute is co-sponsored by the Iowa Lakes Corridor Development Corporation, Iowa Department of Economic Development, Iowa Lakes Community College, Buena Vista University and over 30 private company sponsorships that fund the weeklong program.


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